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Answering the Call for Student Services

IITS // Spotlights // Spring 2020 Technology Spotlights // Answering the Call for Student Services

Like several other CSUs, CSUSM has relied on a phone system built for a different time and different needs, and the campus’ 20-year-old PointSpan telephone system is now officially obsolete and not supported by the original manufacturer. Given the diminished extension-level usage for the telephone system, two years ago CSUSM set as a priority, though not a high one, to replace the 2,000-extension campus’ phone system. Prior to the COVID-19 incident, only 417 lines had been migrated to the new phone system, Mitel MX-One. These were primarily analog emergency services lines, such as elevators and Blue Lights in the parking lots, IITS and University Police offices, or extensions linked to phone service for the new Extended Learning Building. 

During the COVID-19 event, the existing campus phone extensions and their limited capabilities to support a distributed campus highlighted the deficiencies of the obsolete PointSpan phone system and its inability to meet the changing needs of the virtual campus.  IITS responded by quickly speeding up the deployment of the Mitel softphone solution and Contact Center functionality. This effort included softphone extensions for campus employees working from home as well as deployment of a full Automated Call Distribution (ACD) system and functionality for Admissions, Financial Aid, Records, Cashiers, Extended Learning, Dean of Students Office (Cougar Care Network), and IITS (Help Desk).  By early May, all numbers in Cougar Central (primary student services point of service) were live in the new Contact Center phone services.  

These new services include a number of enhancements that benefit students and the CSUSM staff who assist them. They include:

  • Virtual Queuing - Virtual Queuing is a key functionality that allows callers to select the option to receive a return call from the University while maintaining their position in queue.  During the period of mid-May to mid-June, Cougar Central received 6,580 inbound calls, of which 26% selected to utilize this new campus service.
  • Service Efficiencies - End-user enhancements have also been added to help streamline support to students.  A time saver for both staff and students is "screen pop", which allows the student's PeopleSoft record to automatically display on the staff member’s screen when the call reaches an agent.
  • Call Center Administration - The campus had previously utilized a very basic call queuing system, and the introduction of new capabilities will follow as functional units are able to absorb the operational changes required of more advanced call-handling strategies.  This updated system also brings CSUSM supervisors the full call center capabilities they have lacked with real-time queue statistics, including calls-in-queue, abandoned calls, and time-to-answer.  

As of mid-June, more than 800 extensions have been moved from the old phone system to the new one, demonstrating once more IITS’ ability to quickly adapt to new realities and produce solutions that enhance student support in a virtual campus.

Mitel Phone